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Adaptation of microbial communities in soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, leading to the transformation of more highly chlorinated congeners in biofilm communities

  • A. J. Macedo (a1), T. R. Neu (a2), U. Kuhlicke (a2) and W.-R. Abraham (a1)

A site polluted for many years with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) was used to elucidate the metabolic adaptation of microbial communities to these xenobiotics. Soil samples taken along a gradient of PCB-pollution at this site were used to grow biofilm communities on PCB oil. The biofilm communities originating from the non-polluted soil formed rather uniform and thin bacterial layers on PCB oil, while the biofilms originating from contaminated soil samples formed agglomerated structures on the PCB droplets. Biofilm communities were very diverse but those from highly polluted soil were dominated by Burkholderia species, a genus known for degrading several PCBs. All biofilm communities could transform low to medium chlorinated PCB congeners but a strong increase in the rate and degree of PCB transformation in communities from heavily polluted soil was observed. Notably, pentachlorinated congeners were transformed only by biofilms derived from the highly polluted soil but at the same time the content of trichlorinated congeners did not decrease. It is assumed that biofilms from the highly contaminated soil reductively dechlorinated PCB, converting pentachlorinated congeners to trichlorinated congeners in the spherical biofilm aggregates by diffusing to the surface of the aggregates, where aerobic transformation took place.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr W.-R. Abraham Helmholtz Center for Infection Research Chemical Microbiology Inhoffenstrasse 7 38124 Braunschweig GermanyT 49 531 6181 4300, F 49 531 6181 4699,
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